Migraines and Nutrition
For people that don’t get frequent migraines they may not understand the full impact they can have on your life. However, with so much going on in day to day life frequent migraines can become a significant problem. Ranging from a chronic daily headache to pain, nausea, and vomiting a migraine attack can even be debilitating if left untreated.
Most of the time people go undiagnosed but migraines actually affect up to 1 in 7 people around the world. A prevalent neurological disorder, Migraines can start when a person is young and stay with them through adulthood. The most common ages for migraines are between 18 and 45 with most symptoms experienced between 35 and 45 years old.
Migraines are also know to interfere with people ability to work or perform simple tasks. Migraines can actually get so severe that people need to be rushed to the hospital because of an attack. Migraines can affects peoples lives and the lives of others who might rely on them for support.
In this article we will be discussing the definition of a migraine, potential symptoms, common triggers, and preventative treatments ranging from medical procedures to simple changes in lifestyle.
What is a migraine
According to Oxford Languages a migraine is “a recurrent throbbing headache that typically affects one side of the head and is often accompanied by nausea and disturbed vision.”
This is a straight forward definition that most people have heard but it doesn’t really explain what a migraine really is. The best way to explain a migraine is to explain how they happen.
Stages of a migraine
Phase 1: Prodrome
A migraine can be broken into phases with the first phase being the Prodrome or “preheadache”. Most people will experience this phase of a migraine but not before every attack.
When a migraine is coming it can take anywhere from a few hours to several days. During this time symptoms can vary from person to person. More common symptoms can include changes in mood, depressive feelings, and difficulty focusing . Other symptoms can include sensitivity to light, fatigue, insomnia, and even muscle stiffness.
When a person is experiencing prodrome a care team can study their symptoms and sometimes come up with treatment plans that can lessen the severity of a coming attack.
During this phase avoiding known triggers, meditation, and taking prescribed medication can even prevent a headache on occasion.
phase 2: Aura
Only about a third of people suffering from migraines experience the aura phase. This phase is generally connected with visual impairment. This impairment can be a period of blurry vision, vision loss, or seeing geometric patterns and shimmering lights in one or both eyes.
Generally speaking these symptoms will evolve over a period of 5 minutes and can last as long as 60 minutes. In some cases the aura may last longer than 60 minutes.
Every aura doesn’t lead to headaches either but they can be a good warning that one may be on its way.
The next phase of a migraine is the headache itself. These headaches are characterized by pain on one or both sides of your head and can last from a few hours to a few days.
Similar to the first two phases of a migraine the headache can vary significantly from person to person. In some cases it can completely debilitating while others might only experience mild discomfort.
The headache phase of a migraine can also have side effects such as nausea, sensitivity to light, and difficulty sleeping.
Phase 4: Postdrome
Sometimes referred to as a “migraine hangover” the postdrome generally follows a migraine headache.
Just like the other phases the postdrome of a migraine headache can vary from person to person.
This phase of a migraine can have the same symptoms as the headache phase and most people can still benefit from avoiding triggers that lead to the headache.
Roughly 80% of people experience a migraine hangover after their headache.
What causes a migraine
There are many common triggers for migraines and while some of these triggers are within your control just as many are outside of it.
The triggers that are outside of your control can include stress, changes in weather or air pressure, and exposure to stimuli such as bright lights, loud noises, or strong smells. For people that are effected by these triggers it can be highly beneficial to track your exposure – maybe keep a diary – so you know when migraine headaches may be coming.
Other triggers can be controlled but only to a certain degree. These migraine triggers can include your sleep schedule, medications, and physical factors such as intense physical effort.
Other common migraine triggers are more easily controlled from day to day. These triggers can include things like the food we eat and what we drink.
The effect of diet on migraines
Food can have a powerful effect on out bodies and its important to know what foods can help us and what foods can just lead to more problems.
Check out this short list of foods and drinks that might trigger migraines:
1. Alcohol: Alcohol is believed to be one of the more common migraine triggers with one study showing that 35 percent of people with migraines have listed it as a trigger.
2. Chocolate: This sweet treat is currently thought to be the second biggest migraine trigger. Chocolate was found to act as a trigger for about 22 percent of people who experience migraines.
3. Caffeine: Drinking too much caffeine has been linked to migraine headaches for some people. On the other hand caffeine withdrawals have also been shown to cause headaches. The American migraine foundation has also said that caffeine can help some people stop a migraine attack.
4. Cured meat: Cured meats such as hot dogs, deli meat, and ham can all contain preservatives called nitrates. One study has shown that nitrates can contribute to migraines by dilating the blood vessels in our brains.
5. Salty Foods: Salty foods are often highly processed and contain lots of preservatives that can trigger migraines. Having high levels of sodium in your body can also lead to high blood pressure which may cause migraine attacks.
When it comes to preventing migraines sadly there are no miracle foods that can end your headache the moment it starts. However, there are plenty of foods that you can eat that won’t trigger migraines.
Here is a short list of migraine safe foods
- Natural sweeteners like maple syrup and vanilla extract
- carbonated water, spring water, and tap water
- Brown rice
- dried fruits, especially non citrus fruits
- and orange, yellow, and green vegetables
Instead of simply removing trigger foods from your diet try to actively replace them with safer foods. This can help lower your chances of a migraine while also boosting your overall health and wellness!
So What’s the Takeaway:
If you suffer from migraines and they are significantly impacting your quality of life – stop going unnoticed. Its time to make a healthy change and live a better life.
While there isn’t a guaranteed treatment for migraines anyone suffering can make steps to help improve their situation. In this case focusing on prevention through a healthy lifestyle and proper nutrition is a great way to start!
We also suggest that you tell your doctor about your symptoms. Nothing is more important than your health and any licensed professional can help you make the right choices.
When you do choose to treat your body better through nutrition it can snowball into multiple positives for your health from reduced stress to a better diet and improves sleep!